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NCSS National Standards for Social Studies Teachers


This publication of National Council for the Social Studies describes and explains the council's national standards for social studies teachers-standards that were approved initially by the NCSS Board of Directors on April 27, 1997, revised, and approved as revised by the board in September 2002. The publication consists of two general sections: (1) an introduction, which contains, in addition to this overview, information about the background and contexts in which the standards were developed, and a description of the audiences to which the standards are addressed; and (2) the standards themselves. The standards are of two types: (1) Subject Matter Standards, which outline in some detail the social studies content that social studies teachers should know and the skills and disposi- tion they should possess in order to teach social studies to students appropriately, and (2) Pedagogical Standards, which outline in very general ways the pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for general teacher effectiveness.

The subject matter standards are the main focus of this publication. They are described in detail because they are the primary areas of expertise and responsibility of NCSS and its members in the national education professional community. They describe the subject matter that NCSS as an organization believes teachers should know and be able to teach. They are intended to be used to assess and help improve (1) the professional knowledge, capabilities, and dispositions of individuals seeking initial state licensure (or certification) to teach social studies in the classrooms of the United States; and (2) the quality of college and university social studies teacher education programs that prepare these individuals.

The pedagogical standards, on the other hand, are more general and are stated very briefly because NCSS is only one of many professional education expert organizations that have described and explained expectations of these types. The pedagogical standards are identified here primarily to indicate that NCSS concurs with the thrusts of these nine standards or principles. The nine are best described in more detail in the document, Model Standards for Beginning Teacher Licensing and Development: A Resource for State Dialogue, of the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) (Washington, DC: INTASC).

Originally, this publication was the first volume in a set of three NCSS publications that focused on national standards for social studies teachers. The other two volumes were Program Standards for the Initial Preparation of Social Studies Teachers (vol. 2) and Guidebook for Colleges and Universities Preparing Social Studies Teachers (vol. 3). Both of the latter volumes have now been superseded by the NCSS-NCATE Social Studies Program Review

The NCSS-NCATE Social Studies Program Review offers resources for institutions seek- ing NCATE accreditation and NCSS approval of their social studies teacher education programs. The resources assist these institutions in preparing a social studies program report for approval. Resources available on the website include:

  • The Program Standards for the Initial Preparation of Social Studies Teachers
  • An NCATE social studies program report form
  • Guidelines for preparing an NCSS Program Report
  • A rubric for NCATE assessments
  • Decision rules for the standards
  • Examples of student teacher performance evaluations for thematic standards and for history
  • Information on types of assistance available to institutions seeking NCATE accreditation and NCSS approval

Background For several decades, National Council for the Social Studies has been formulating and announcing standards for the preparation of social studies teachers in both comprehensive social studies and the single disciplines that are typically included under the social studies umbrella. The standards have been issued in approximate five-year cycles, the initial ver- sion of this document was released in 1997. This version is a slight revision of that effort. The 1997 standards, and this revision, are very different from those of previous ver- sions and they are different in two ways; whereas earlier versions prescribed programmatic components (courses, for example) that should be provided for prospective social studies teachers in their teacher preparation programs, fifteen of these twenty standards describe the academic content that those who complete social studies teacher education programs (comprehensive social studies and any of the single disciplines) should know and be able to teach. In short, these standards (1) emphasize subject matter knowledge and the abil- ity to teach it, and (2) focus on the professional performance of those individuals whom a teacher education institution recommends for licenses. These two shifts in focus-to a greater emphasis on academic social studies content and toward performance-based assess- ment- are consistent with general trends in teacher education; the national move toward greater accountability for schools, teachers, and teacher education programs; and paral- lel efforts of state teacher licensure offices, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and other subject matter professional teacher associations. The initial version of the twenty subject-matter standards contained in this docu- ment as well as the document as a whole were developed by an NCSS Task Force on Social Studies Teacher Education Standards appointed in 1995. Members of the task force were:

  • Charles B. Myers, Lead Co-chairperson of the Task Force and principal author of this publication, Professor Emeritus of Social Studies Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University.
  • Susan Adler, Co-chairperson of the Task Force, Associate Professor and Chairperson, Division of Teacher Education, University of Missouri, Kansas City.
  • Allan Brandhorst, Co-chairperson of the Task Force, Professor of Education and Chair of the Department of Education, Valparaiso University.
  • Alberta Macke Dougan, Professor of History, Southeast Missouri State University.
  • Wayne Dumas, Professor Emeritus, Social Studies Education, University of Missouri- Columbia.Lewis E. Huffman, Education Associate-Social Studies, Delaware Department of Education.
  • Pat Rossman, Elementary Teacher, Conrad Elvehjem School, McFarland, Wisconsin.
  • Donald O. Schneider, Professor and Director, School of Teacher Education, College of Education, University of Georgia.
  • Robert J. Stahl, Professor, Division of Curriculum and Instruction, Arizona State University, Tempe.

The Task Force worked intensively for three years, during which it sought input and reactions from education professionals nationwide through electronic media-e-mail and the World Wide Web-correspondence, and public hearings. It considered seriously every communication received. The 1997 version of the standards was approved by the NCSS Board of Directors on April 7, 1997. This revision of the standards was developed by the NCSS Task Force on Social Studies Teacher Education Standards, 2002. Members of the task force were:

  • Charles B. Myers, Co-chair, Professor of Social Studies Education, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University.
  • Alberta Macke Dougan, Co-chair, Professor of history, Southeast Missouri State University.
  • Ceola Ross Baber, Associate Dean for Teacher Education and School Relationships, University of Missouri-Columbia.
  • Wayne Dumas, Professor Emeritus: Social Studies Education, University of Missouri-Columbia.
  • Caroline J. Helmkamp, Teacher, Northeast Middle School, Kansas City Missouri School District.
  • James W. Lane, Teacher, Orange High School, Orange, OH
  • Lee Morganett, Professor of Social Studies Education and Educational Psychology, Indiana University Southeast.
  • Warren Solomon, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia.
  • Richard Theisen, Social Studies Consultant. This task force sought input similar to that of its predecessor. The revision were approved by the NCSS Board of Directors in September of 2002.
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